alt=a woman uses a flashlight to read a menu in a dark restaurant and looks up at an older woman in a thought bubble

It's Dark in Here

I have distinct memories of meeting my mother-in-law over 37 years ago. In 2014, she passed away, but the memories of her have a way of popping up even after all this time. Her eccentric ways seemed quite particular to that 25 years old me. I have clear visions of sharing time with her and doing an internal eye roll with inner exclamations, “I’ll never do that.” Time has a way of knocking those memories into my skull.

The beginning

As a mother-in-law, Virginia was quite unique. She spent most of her adult life in Berkeley California, she had divorced early in the 1960’s and raising two young boys on her own. As a very biased wife, I would say their upbringing was successful, as I met and married one of those boys in the mid ‘80’s. Life has an interesting way of doing things, for me personally.

Those early days of meeting and getting to know the mother-in-law were, at times, intriguing. Many of our encounters with her were treating her to dinners out, either out in California or in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Her west coast lifestyle led her to enjoy many different ethnicities’ cuisines, complete with the darkened ambiance.

The memories

As we were escorted to a table, I would be running through different scenarios, wanting to make a good impression on this new mother-in-law of mine. Then settling into our seats, conversations would begin. Anything from what would our meal selection be, to future plans on our horizons.

Then it happened. As the menus were being perused, Virginia opened her (rather large) handbag and brought it out. A rather compact, but particularly bright FLASHLIGHT. In the crowded restaurant. I remembered not trying to stare but truly being caught unaware. That moment seemed to last forever, her intense gaze under the glaring beam of light reflecting across the shiny menu surface. I quickly selected my order and tried not to stare.

This is when I must admit, one of those moments: an internal eye-roll with the silent exclamation: “I will never do that.”

Another recollection of this dear mother-in-law I now remember quite clearly is her casual reading at our home. I see her deeply engrossed in a treasured novel, her glasses perched on her nose and the book a mere inches away from her face. This love of reading was all-consuming. Her vision was clearly challenged but the desire to continue drove her to read, no matter what.

Today I find myself thinking of her

The relationship I had with Virginia was distant as we literally lived over 2,000 miles apart. There were visits when we could get there, and other times she would come to see us. Marrying her son 36 years ago brought us together and we enjoyed the times that we had. I find myself thinking of her more often as I deal with myopic degeneration and the vision challenges it brings.

These days, it is me who opens a handbag and using the flashlight capability on my iPhone, closely peers at the menus as restaurants continue to darken each and every room available. I also find myself, tilting and adjusting books or kindles to enhance my reading abilities.

I often find myself “talking” to Virginia, apologizing for the smart-alecky internal dialogues I had those many years ago. I get it now, really. She was certainly on to something.

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